Monday, March 15, 2021

Last Call For Coked Up, Votes Down

Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is going straight to magical GOP nonsense with the notion that Dems are going to use the For The People voting reform act to "buy votes with cocaine".

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suggested on Sunday that H.R. 1, the sweeping election-reform bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, could eventually result in Democrats “using cocaine to buy votes.”

Appearing on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, Abbott insisted to host Maria Bartiromo that the bill aimed at improving voting access would actually try to “institutionalize voter fraud in the United States of America” because it would expand the use of mail-in voting.

Describing his time as Texas attorney general, the governor then recalled an “amazing story” about vote-buying. “It was Barack Obama himself who knew about the dangers of ballot harvesting in the state of Texas,” he told a credulous Bartiromo. “Because under his administration, he sent his U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas as well as the FBI to south Texas to arrest and to prosecute people who were involved in ballot harvesting that were using cocaine to buy votes through the ballot harvesting process in the state of Texas. It is a way to commit voter fraud and it cannot be allowed.”

Bartiromo exclaimed in response: “This is absolutely extraordinary, governor!”
That story is complete hogwash, by the way. It was a local dealer trying to give dime bags to a couple of voters over a school board election in 2012 and he was arrested and charged for it. What Barack Obama had to do with it is mystifying, unless you're a Texas Republican Governor who's more than a little bit racist.

How that became "Democrats are going to pay voters in coke!" is a tale of moronic proportions.

Cleaning Up Trump's Mess, Con't

The Biden administration continues to take steps to clean up America after four years of drowning in Trump's toxic waste dump, this time the White House is looking at new measures to protect badly compromised government computer networks raided by Russia and China over the last several years, exposed last week by a major Microsoft vulnerability.

The White House is ramping up coordination with the private sector to address the ongoing fallout from a major breach of Microsoft software leaving thousands of American organizations vulnerable to hackers.

That includes for the first time including private companies in the meetings of an interagency taskforce dedicated to the incident, a senior administration official told reporters Friday.

“We still believe that public-private partnership is foundational in cybersecurity and we want to ensure we're taking every opportunity to include key private-sector participants early and directly in our remediation efforts,” a senior administration official said.

It's a major step towards transparency for the Biden administration, which is stressing strengthening relations between the private and public sector in the fallout from the Russian SolarWinds hacking campaign that infiltrated at least nine government agencies and about 100 companies.

The more recent Microsoft hack has added urgency to fixing those relations. Microsoft announced earlier this month a group of hackers tied to China exploited a vulnerability in its Microsoft Exchange product. Other cybercriminals have since swooped in to take advantage of servers that have not yet been updated to fix the vulnerability.

The situation escalated last week when Microsoft reported that hackers were targeting vulnerable servers with ransomware, a software loaded with a program allowing hackers to lock up computer systems and data for money. Vulnerable Microsoft users include hundreds of banks, health-care and government servers, researchers at the cybersecurity firm RiskIQ found. Pulling off a successful ransomware attack against any one of them could create major chaos.

A White House team is examining how to address concerns from the private sector over information-sharing with the government, the official said. Congress also is slated to roll out proposals regarding cybersecurity incident sharing in the coming weeks.

The Biden administration is weighing a number of potential solutions, including a ratings system for software, the official said. The grading system would be similar to that used by local health departments for restaurants. The idea of a cybersecurity rating has been pushed by Congress's bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission as well as some industry groups.

The administration also is mulling a law such as the one introduced in Singapore requiring home devices to come with security labels.

Executive orders addressing the two ideas are forthcoming, the senior official said.

The administration is not considering granting the government additional authorities to surveil domestic Internet traffic for hackers. Some experts and lawmakers worry that the blind spot created by the limited authorities has created an easy way for international hackers to avoid detection by using U.S. networks. The Biden official said the government is not exploring any expansion of domestic surveillance to make it easier for U.S. intelligence to monitor domestic traffic for hackers, a proposal that probably would spark an outcry from privacy advocates and in Congress.
Translation: even after years of being hacked by China and Russia, Republicans will not allow new cybersecurity legislation, even if several Dems weren't against it over civil liberties issues. It's going to have to come from President Biden's executive order pen. 

Still, Trump patently refused to do anything about these vulnerabilities, going so far as to fire the White house cybersecurity czar and eliminate the office, leaving the door wide open for Russia and China to reap devastating intelligence on US operations and corporations.

President Biden has a lot of work to do, but at least we're rolling up our sleeves.

Ridin' With Biden, Con't

America is embracing President Biden's competence and the speedy actions of Democrats in Congress in cleaning up the Trump cesspool, and a new CBS News poll finds the majority of us see better days and sunshine ahead.

Though "exhausted" from a year-long pandemic, confidence about containing the coronavirus is hitting new highs as more vaccines roll out, and Americans say they're also "grateful" and widely optimistic about the coming months. The economy seems poised for its own shot in the arm, with Americans bullish about its prospects, both nationally and locally, and looking forward to fueling it by traveling, shopping and dining out more — once they think it's safe.

Precisely when they'll think it's safe is uncertain, and it won't be right away. For some, it won't be until they're vaccinated themselves. Others are waiting for cases to come down further, even if they've gotten the shot, and right now, many remain wary of venturing into crowded places. Concern about new variants weighs on others.

On the political front, this adds up to good marks for President Biden, who gets very high ratings for his handling of the outbreak, with over two-thirds approving, as well as for managing the vaccine distribution. Plus the just-signed relief bill remains extremely popular, with most feeling it will help both the economy and help them, personally.

But if all this optimism is predicated on America vaccinating everyone by summer, then partisan differences are injecting some added uncertainty: Republicans — particularly younger Republicans — continue to be more reluctant to get the vaccine, just as they've been less concerned about the virus generally, as well as more skeptical of restrictions.

As they look across many specific parts of the economy, national and local, most see reason for hope. They're optimistic about their local job market, their local economy and that businesses can reopen safely, as well for the stock market's prospects.

And a majority believes the newly signed relief bill will help them, personally, as well as help the economy overall — particularly for working-class and lower-income people more so than the wealthy.This optimism could spur growth if Americans return to activities they've avoided — and they say they're looking forward to doing just that, in sectors like travel, and restaurants — or by spending, as they look forward to things like "shopping" and "getting dressed up" again along with visiting friends.
All said and done, Biden's approval rating is 62% in this CBS poll. 

Things are improving something that still would not be happening under Trump.


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